The comments in A recent article on Slashdot got me thinking about the perceived necessity of a college degree in America today. I was tempted to post, but didn't want to get on my soapbox and wander off-topic for however long it took me to get my rant on. This morning a comment I heard on NPR--something to the effect of "a college degree is necessary to succeed in today's economy"--brought me back to the same train of thought.
I'm a college opt-out. After a year of school and one changed major, I decided that college wasn't my thing and went into the workforce, finding IT work right away. I took two more shots at college after that, and both times decided it was a bad idea and quit before I wasted any more of my money. I'm probably technically a sophomore, having acquired credits from three different schools and across five different majors.
I have 15 years in IT and make significantly more money halfway through my career than the median family income for my state. I phrase it that way because my current level of income may not seem like much for east- and west-coast readers, but in rural Texas it is considerable. I'm roughly five years from having no debt, including owning my house outright. I am financially stable working a low-stress (for me) job I enjoy that doesn't take me away from my family for more than 40 hours a week. If that's not success, then I don't care to be successful.
I sometimes resent the notion that a person needs a degree to get by in today's world. 55% of this year's high school graduates in the U.S. will never go to college, and many of them will lead very successful lives. Some of them will be skilled blue collar workers whose hard work and talent puts them in demand. Some of them will be natural entrepreneurs, finding opportunities missed by those indoctrinated with collegiate groupthink. Some of them, like me, will be self-educated and competitive with college graduates in every way, lacking only that silly little piece of paper that says they endured a few years of telling professors what they wanted to hear.
Don't misunderstand me. I firmly believe that college is necessary for some people to realize their potential. Many students don't have the discipline or imagination to learn on their own, and need the structure of university. And some professions can't be learned without expert instruction, and that is best delivered at least partly in a classroom. I want my doctor to have a degree. I could care less if my network administrator has one.